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Integrating manned, unmanned vehicles in airspace systemIntegrating manned, unmanned vehicles in airspace system

AOPA supports the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System as long as they "do no harm" to current operators, said Heidi Williams, AOPA vice president of air traffic services and modernization.

Williams spoke on a panel covering UAS and how they fit into NextGen held at RTCA’s Annual Symposium, entitled “Advancing the Goals of NextGen,” in Washington, D.C., June 5. “Integration means the burden to operate will be on the UAS operator/pilot without requiring additional equipage or restrictions for current manned operators,” she said.

The 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, passed in February, included a mandate by Congress for the FAA to create six UAS test sites. The FAA on March 7 asked for public comment on its selection process to choose the test sites, which are expected to provide data that will help the agency safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the same airspace with manned airplanes. The goal is to start introducing UAS into the National Airspace System by 2015.

The panel was asked about what will be needed to integrate, along with barriers to integration.

“Much like other NextGen technology, we will need revised and new policies, UAS pilot training and requirements, certification standards, and to ensure safety is top priority,” Williams said. “On barriers, public perception will be a challenge, and the FAA will need strong leadership to bring all the key players and UAS initiatives together.”

AOPA supports the UAS test sites, said Williams. “We believe they will provide critical data collection and data sharing among UAS operators, the industry, and agencies to allow for UAS integration to move forward,” she said.

Topics: Airspace, FAA Funding, Advocacy

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